EIGHINGER: Certain TV shows have helped shape our talk around the water cooler

Posted: May. 17, 2014 5:13 pm Updated: Aug. 9, 2014 8:15 pm

Whether any of us actually want to admit it, we are all greatly influenced by the television we watch.

Not you? Think again.

How many conversations just in the past week have you had with someone at work about something you had seen on TV? Whether it was an NBC news report, the goofiness of the latest episode of "Fargo," or the antics of one of the ESPN SportsCenter anchors, what you watch often influences what you say around the water cooler.

This brings me to the 10 most influential TV shows from the last quarter-century. These programs have changed the landscape of what we expect to see on television and have profoundly influenced our culture.

1. "American Idol": Love it or hate it, this was the show that triggered the reality-TV craze and gave birth to a generation of never-seen-before programming. "Idol" made TV history by being the most-watched show for an unprecedented eight straight years and was also the top water-cooler topic for most of a decade. The show's glory days are behind it, but its impact will never be forgotten.

2. "The Walking Dead": The most-watched nonmajor network show in TV history has taken gratuitous violence to levels never seen before. In addition, this is the program that started a trend that other shows are now copying by frequently having main characters unexpectedly killed off.

3. "Roseanne": We all identified with the Connor household in general, Roseanne the matriarch in particular. Most middle-class husbands related to Roseanne, most middle-class wives related to Dan, and most middle-class couples related to Becky, Darlene and D.J.

4. "The Sopranos": This HBO original was the show that demonstrated to America there was consistent, quality programming beyond the four networks. If not for "The Sopranos," we would probably have never seen the likes of "The Walking Dead," "Breaking Bad" or numerous others.

5. "Seinfeld": Jerry, George, Kramer and Elaine were friends before "Friends."

6. "Late Night With David Letterman" (NBC years): Dave showed us a little anarchy in the late night was a good thing.

7. "Breaking Bad": Walter White showed us there's a little good in every bad guy. "Bad" has been imitated by numerous others whose hero figure is no longer required to ride a white horse. NBC's latest hit, "The Blacklist," is a perfect example.

8. "Law and Order": The "Law and Order" franchise, which also included "SUV" and "Criminal Intent," illustrated the seamy underbelly of big-city police work like no other programming before it.

9. "The Simpsons": "The Simpsons" were the cartoon version of Roseanne. It took adult themes, problems and comedy to prime-time animated form. Without "The Simpsons," we would not have "Archer."

10. "NFL Draft": Even then-NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle doubted that fans were that interested in the draft when ESPN began its coverage in the 1980s. That was about the only thing Rozelle was wrong about during his reign. Now, all major sports televise their drafts, but none draw the ratings the NFL does.


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